Rainbow Seed Fund's £200m Investment in UK’s “Deep Science”

Rainbow Seed Fund— Early-stage venture fund key in bridging gap between UK research and commercialisation

— Fund aims to turn UK scientific ‘world’s first’ ambitions into market-leading companies

Rainbow Seed Fund, an early-stage venture capital fund focused on promising technologies developed at the UK’s largest publicly-funded research facilities and campuses, today announces that the fund have now leveraged more than £200m to work supporting UK’s most ground-breaking and innovative companies.

Since the Fund’s inception in 2002, Rainbow Seed Fund has been investing in the earliest and riskiest stages to create promising technology companies that stem out of engineering and high-quality science research. The Fund has made a significant contribution to the commercialisation of more than 30 high quality science technology start-up companies in sectors such as health, environmental services, international development and security. Rainbow’s portfolio showcases a number of ‘world’s firsts’ ambitions and includes two companies named by the World Economic Forum as ‘Technology Pioneers’ (see below list).

Rainbow Seed Fund partners are leading UK public sector research establishments led by STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council), BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), NERC and Dstl (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory). The fund is independently managed by Midven.

“Securing the first round of finance is notoriously hard for early-stage companies, as is investor willingness to continue to back the most promising companies in further funding rounds,” said Dr Andrew Muir, Rainbow Seed Fund Investment Director. “Rainbow aims to lower this establishment phase hurdle and drive companies towards commercialisation and sustainability, offering strategic support and leveraging private capital to help businesses stand on their own. Our differentiating approach is that we don’t just invest in established teams or developed companies. With a risk appetite that is higher than pure private funds, we get involved at the earliest stages and continue to grow with them as ‘patient capital’ investors”.

“Investors play a key role in the success of new engineering and technology companies in the UK”, commented former science minister Ian Taylor who is chairman of the Rainbow Seed Fund advisory board. “Britain is good at research, but not as good at taking ideas beyond discovery towards commercialisation. Rainbow plays a particularly helpful role in bringing those ideas to market and has stimulated a multiple of follow-on private investment into its portfolio companies”.

Rainbow Seed Fund Portfolio: World’s Firsts

Two of Rainbow’s portfolio companies, Tokamak Energy and Synthace, have been named World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers, joining the ranks of the world’s most innovative companies.

By offering backing at an early stage, Rainbow has a unique opportunity to support the UK’s most promising scientists and help turn their ideas into market-leading companies. A number of Rainbow Seed Fund portfolio companies are being recognised for their ‘world’s first ambitions,’ including:

MANUFACTURING / ENGINEERING

  • Cobalt Light Systems, a spinout from Rainbow partner STFC, manufactures and sells innovative instruments and technologies for non-invasive, rapid analysis of materials. This technology has applications in airport security to quickly screen liquid contents like baby’s milk; pharmaceutical materials analysis of capsules, tablets, gels or solutions; and handheld detection devices to analyse hazardous materials, explosives and narcotics. Cobalt won the prestigious MacRobert Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014.
  • Last year, Tokamak Energy garnered a 2015 Technology Pioneer award to accelerate the development of cost-effective, clean energy from fusion within the next 10 years. Tokamak aims to accelerate the development of fusion energy by combining two emerging technologies – spherical tokamaks and high-temperature superconductors.

MEDICAL / BIOTECH

  • Crescendo Biologics is a biopharmaceutical company discovering and developing potent, highly differentiated Humabody® therapeutics in Oncology. In October 2016, Crescendo signed a deal with Takeda on using its Humabody® technology platform to generate tumour targeting drug conjugates and immuno-oncology therapeutics. The deal has a headline value of up to $790m.
  • University College London spin-out Synthace, which provides next generation software and processes to exponentially improve productivity in bioscience, was named as the only UK entrant on the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer 2016 list. Synthace is developing Antha to automate biological research. Antha brings an engineering approach to biology, making experiments far more efficient, connecting and automating complex equipment and enabling better engineer biology for health, food, energy and manufacturing. The company, is already serving customers across the pharmaceutical, agriscience and industrial biotechnology industries.

SOFTWARE / HARDWARE

  • Formed in February 2011, Spectral Edge is a UEA spinout from the same stable as the technology behind Apple’s HDR image processing. Spectral Edge technology enhances images and video by using information outside the normal visible spectrum or applying transformations to that within it. Applications range from medical imaging and surveillance all the way to consumer applications such as enhancing camera images and TV pictures.

ENVIRONMENTAL

  • International GeoScience Services (IGS), a spinout from the British Geological Survey, has developed IGS Xplore, a new and innovative mineral prospectivity software system designed for de-risking early-stage decision making in mineral exploration. The software system uses novel, non-GIS based, semantically-driven technology to generate early-stage, value-added prospectivity maps for regions, countries or geological terranes where base geodata exists. IGS Xplore readily identifies early-stage exploration targets, quickly and cost-effectively, for an extensive range of commodities in a wide variety of regional geological environments.
  • A spin-out from STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxsensis is pioneering a “new breed” of highly accurate, highly stable optical sensors. Using light to measure heat, temperature and pressure, based upon proprietary intellectual property rights, Oxsensis’ dynamic sensors can be used in extreme environments — like those created by jet engines and power stations — where traditional sensors run out of steam. Better sensors allow power savings, reduced emissions and improved asset risk management. Oxsensis works with blue-chip partner in global markets of national significance — aerospace, power generation, space, nuclear, and oil and gas.

SPACE

  • Oxford Space Systems (OSS) has developed a new generation of deployable global satellite space structures that are lighter, less complex and lower cost than those in current commercial demand. In September 2016, OSS set a space industry record going from company formation to material design through product design, test and launch of its deployable boom on a cubesat (a type of miniaturized satellite for space research) in under 30 months. OSS is using the mission as a flight opportunity to validate a number of predictions made for its proprietary flexible composite material in the demanding environment of low-earth orbit.

Rainbow Seed Fund Milestones

  • Helped to create more than 30 high technology start-up companies across sectors such as health, environmental services, international development and security.
  • Leveraged more than £200 million of private investment into their portfolio companies. This represents a ratio of over £20 for every £1 invested from Rainbow.
  • Over and above co-investment, Rainbow has helped generate wider economic impact in the form of salaries, taxes and economic activity in suppliers. Known as “Gross Value Add” (GVA), this measurement, at £5 of GVA for every £1 invested by Rainbow, shows the benefit of early stage investment and is forecasted to grow substantially as the companies mature and grow.
  • The Fund bolsters the UK’s exports – an overwhelming majority of sales in Rainbow companies are overseas and total sales have already reached over £70m.
  • Rainbow has helped to create 240+ high value technology-related jobs, a figure that is rising rapidly as the companies in Rainbow’s portfolio accelerate and transition from research into production and sales.

The Fund has already had four successful exits and has recycled the funds into new investments.

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